Sorry everyone, I’ve been busy using up all my writing energy on another project. But I’m back with an overly long make-up post!
Engagements! During the holidays (which I’m defining as a week before thanksgiving to a week after New Year’s) I counted just shy of 20 engagements among my Facebook friends. I don’t have that many Facebook friends! Honestly I think I might have zero single Facebook friends now. And it’s not just friends from my direct peer group, it’s people that I once babysat (more on that).
The thing about Mormons is that get married young and they get married fast. For each of my friends that got engaged over that period, I kept track (as much as was possible) of how long they had been dating before any questions were popped. Then I took an average. Four months. FOUR FREAKING MONTHS! The longest was 11 months and the shortest was 3 weeks.
It feels a little short no? But relatively how short is it? After doing some exhaustive research (aka doing one google search and clicking on the first link) I found that the national average of time a couple is together before engagement to be about three years. Compare that to the Mormon average of four months (okay my number was not from a large or representative sample, but just go with it) and its almost 10 times as long! And I’m sure the difference would be even greater if we included the time from engagement to marriage.
All this made me think, why do Mormons get engaged so fast? I think it boils down to a combination of a factors:
- No sex before marriage, duh
- Hiding behind the shield of spirituality. Some people seem to think as long as they pray about it, then they are free to pull the trigger. Everyone is just so optimistic about marriage and thinks if they are a good Mormon they are immune to divorce
- Self-propelling Culture. Marriage is so valued in our culture, plus everyone in your peer group is getting married fast. It becomes your reference point
- Dating more intensely. It seems like when Mormons start dating, they spend probably more time than average with their significant other. Dating is less about fun and more about figuring out if the other person is suitable spouse (hence the first date questions about how many kids you want)
- Our relatively homogenous society. We are generally marrying fellow Mormons so the process of learning and reconciling with each other’s views on religion, values, family expectations, gender roles is relatively easy
I actually went to a wedding over the holidays and it was too perfect not to share.
First the bride, who I shall refer to as “Child Bride”, was someone I use to babysit. Our families are super close and go way back. She’s 18 and pretty and sweet. Her family has basically bred her to be a Mormon wife/mother.
She had a boyfriend off and on through high school and just sent him on a mission in September. Meanwhile she left for BYU-Idaho. In her first month of her first semester of her first year at college she goes on her first date with a (25 year old) Returned Missionary. But plot twist! She doesn’t get engaged to that guy. But during that date, the (25 year old) RM’s roommate, we’ll call him the “27yrold”, starts calling her. Allegedly he calls and calls before she calls him back. Boom, three weeks later Child Bride and 27yrold are engaged.
At the reception (held the night before the wedding), she told us they bonded over both recently getting out of bad “long” term relationships (even though he had dated his ex-gf only 5 months and she didn’t technically get out of her relationship with her missionary until she Dear John-ed him AFTER she got engaged, minor details). Also she said one night they talked for 2 whole hours straight and after that she knew he was the one. That was revelatory to me. Personally I have gotten up to 1 hour of conversation with a girl a few times, maybe 1.5 hours tops, but I’ve never hit that legendary 2 hour mark. It makes sense why I’m still single. At least now I know what to shoot for.
So with that rock solid foundation they decided to take the plunge. It was basically was an arranged marriage, except it wasn’t usual wise parents arranging the marriage, it was teenager.
I honestly felt bad for being there, like I was an accessory to a crime or something. I kept thinking that the wedding wasn’t going to actually happen. Not because either of them seemed nervous or seemed to have cold feet (definitely not the case with them), just because it just didn’t seem like it should have been allowed to happen. Any moment I figured someone would bust down the doors and stop everything.
That didn’t happen though. Instead a bunch of weird crap happened. Despite Child Bride’s dad calling the 27yrold’s dad, bishop, and mission president to make sure the dude was legit, I was not sold. He seemed super dramatic. At the reception, as Child Bride sat in the middle of the dance floor, he sang James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” in a disturbing falsetto like right in her face (please look up the lyrics and join me in puzzlement). Immediately following that, his whole family surround her in a circle and sang a song (which I did not recognize) at her. There was a lot of this going on:
His mom stood up and talked about how he has been a hand full and that it’s crazy that it seems like just yesterday he was staying up all night with his friends playing video games. Then she salvages it by saying he is so driven and knows what he wants, only to end with saying he needs to decide what he is majoring in at BYU-Idaho. Next his dad took his turn and said that he was going to read a letter that he wrote to 27yrold when he was teenager, but that he felt was still applicable. He proceeds to read a letter that lists out all of 27yrold’s faults and weaknesses in TMI detail, and then he just sits down.
It was one wtf moment after another. But they got married. It’s done.
At one point Child Bride’s dad told us that his parents only knew each other for a week before getting married and that he only dated his wife for 2 weeks before putting a ring on it. Child Bride endured a whole 3 weeks of dating. I guess that’s progress.